Capturing that magical wildlife photo takes decent equipment, an extreme amount of patience and a little bit of luck. Beyond composition and color, the best wildlife photographs give you a reason to pause. “The trick is to include one key ingredient — something that is common to almost all the winning shots: originality,” says DiscoverWildlife.com. Lining up all of these elements can be tricky. But it’s well worth it when you get results like those below. These are our favorite shots from the BBC and Natural History Museum’s 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

What’s your favorite from this wildlife photo competition? Let us know in the comments below. You can also go to and vote online for the People’s Choice until September 5, 2014, at this link here.

1. Kings Into the Dark – Stanley Leroux

Kings into the dark

Emptiness in a picture sometimes speaks louder than abundance. This photograph’s impact comes from the combination of a title that is as striking as the landscape’s negative space.

2. What’s This? Peter Mather

What's this? Peter Mather

Setting up this shot must have taken a great amount of planning and forethought. Even so, no one can choreograph animals to stage correctly for a photo. The crispness of the scene above and below the water line add it its appeal.

3. Barracuda swirl – Alexander Mustard

Barracuda swirl - Alexander Mustard

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” In this photo, where the focus is on the form created by a school of barracudas (rather than highlighting just one) the truth inside this quote is undeniable.

4. Great peacock moth caterpillar – Leela Channer.

Great peacock moth caterpillar - Leela Channer.

“When you’re out photographing wildlife, don’t just pay attention to what are called the charismatic megafauna — the big animals that get most of our attention,” says National Geographic wildlife photographer Robert Caputo. “Of course we all want good photos of the big guys, but there are many other forms of life around. Some of them are really beautiful, and all of them are interesting.” Lucky for us, Leela Channer didn’t overlook this caterpillar, which is as quirky as it is exquisite.

5. Startled by stargazer – Jennifer Jo Stock

Startled by stargazer - Jennifer Jo Stock

I may have a background in biology, but I’m still not sure what kind of fish I’m looking at here. In this picture, though, inexperience of the animal doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of the surprise. I’m just not sure who’s more taken aback: the stargazer or his audience. (Bonus points to anyone who can tell me the name of this animal in the comments below.)

6. Australian sea lion pups – Michael Patrick O’Neill

Australian sea lion pups - Michael Patrick O'Neill

The movement and contrasting hues are mesmerizing in this remarkable black and white photograph.

7. Yellow-necked mouse – Carsten Braun

Yellow-necked mouse - Carsten Braun

I love stories where I can root for the little guy. Like this small mouse — bounding from rock to rock, skirting pools of water, all while hanging on to his precious cargo. I can almost hear the applause when he lands safely on terra firma once more.

8. Pure magic – Raviprakash S S

Pure magic - Raviprakash S S

At first glance, this shot of a series of busy streets doesn’t appear to fit it a group of wildlife photos.  Until you notice the spider perched above, and realize that this is actually a colorful web.

9. Baltic groyne – Jens Rosbach

Baltic groyne - Jens Rosbach

Not all of the photos in this competition feature animals. This shot — a row of groynes standing sentry in a foggy Baltic Sea — is hypnotic in a subtle, calming way.

10. Facebook update – Marsel van Oosten

Facebook update - Marsel van Oosten

I don’t know what’s funnier — this shot of a Japanese snow monkey, or the descriptions we’ve come across for it. The photographer named the photo “Facebook update,” but just as humorous is the caption from Business Insider:  “He’s playing Candy Crush.”

Featured photo credit: Kings into the dark, Stanley Leroux via nhm.ac.uk

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